Monday, September 29, 2014
PAUL'S "BAD HAIR DAYS" IN JERUSALEM
Have you ever been frustrated? Pretty silly question, right? We all find ourselves frustrated from time to time, if not all the time. Frustration can come from a multitude of occurrences in our everyday life: Spilled coffee, slow traffic, misbehaving children, plans thwarted, loss of control in situations where control was all we could count on.
Frustration has many side effects: Anger is one; confusion about where, what, why... is another; fear of what's next; hope for good results crushed; despair, depression, despondency, even deep self-deprecation and desire to just quit everything.
When Paul finally returned to Jerusalem, after many years of travel into Asia Minor and Greece, his biggest hope was to be able to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ to all who would listen; especially since he had such great news to tell them about the work of Christ in the hearts of the Gentiles. We might say he was “pumped” to get on with spreading the Gospel of Love and Grace back in Jerusalem where it all was completed many years before.
However, it seemed that he just ran into one brick wall after another:
First, he ran headlong into church leaders who had heard that “some” were spreading bad reports of what he was doing “out there” in Gentile land.These same men had collaborated with him on how to handle the subject of circumcision and had come to an agreement which was written down and signed for Paul to carry with him. Now they were alarmed that these false rumors were spreading throughout Jerusalem when they knew that Paul, himself, was true to the Jewish laws and traditions. They were not going to accuse him of anything – BUT – some appeasement was needed to dissuade these rumors. They suggested that he join a group of local men who were going to participate in a purification ceremony. That turned out really well for him. NOT.
When he was at the temple, toward the end of the time of purification, some of the complaining Jews from the province of Asia saw him. They accused him openly of defiling the temple by shouting lies about him and his teachings. “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions.” There was a riot, during which Paul was dragged out of the temple and beaten, and nearly killed. The riot was only stopped by the appearance of the Roman Guard.
Not knowing what was going on, they came and arrested Paul, binding him in chains, as prophecied earlier in Act. As they were removing him, he spoke up in Greek and startled the guards who thought he was an Egyptian rebel.
I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cylicia, a citizen of no ordinary city. Please let me speak to the people.
Then he changed to Aramaic, which hushed the crowd. Then he gave his Jewish resume and continued with his testimony in Jesus Christ, ending with this statement:
Then the Lord said to me, “Go: I will send you far away to the gentiles.”
With that, the riot started all over again. And, once more, the Roman Guard stepped in to get Paul out of there.
Being frustrated themselves, they removed Paul from the situation, but tried to further the inquiry of him by ordering a flogging and questioning. Paul spoke up again and asked if it was legal to flog a Roman citizen without a trial and a verdict. It was not. They were, shall we say, astounded about what they had almost done, but the commander wanted to be sure and asked more questions. As these questions were answered, the ones who were about to flog him quietly backed out of the room.. “The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.”
I think we can be sure that this was not a good day for Paul. And, his night was surely a rough one as well.
The very next day, the Romans decided to find out the truth of all this by turning him over to the court of the Sanhedrins, the Jewish Court made up of Pharisees and Sadducees who were not even able to agree with each other about what the truth was in the laws of God.
Things went from bad to worse when they took him into custody and those near him where told to “strike him on the mouth.” - That was an illegal action according to the law to which these leaders held themselves.
Paul spoke up saying, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall...” He accused them, just as Christ had, of being clean appearing on the outside but filthy dirty on the inside; and willing to break their own laws. This did not set well with anyone and Paul was called out on failing to respect the High Priest.
Paul, being a faithful keeper of Jewish law, immediately confessed what he had done and what law he had broken. Then he challenged the Sanhedrin with the fact that he was being persecuted for believing in the resurrection, which the Pharisee half also held as a belief, but the Sadducees did not.
That did not help. The Pharisees and Sadducees began their own shouting match at each other and the whole thing became another riot from which Paul needed to be rescued. The Roman Guard once again had to step in:
“There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law stood up and argued... became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them.”
They took him away by force and brought him into the barracks, like a prisoner. At this point, it can be said that Paul was beside himself with frustration over the whole situation. Even though he knew this was coming and that he would be sent to Rome, his plans to preach the Gospel in Jerusalem were shattered. His heart was breaking over the people of Jerusalem and what they were missing out on. He needed some encouragement.
Acts 25:11 – THE FOLLOWING NIGHT THE LORD STOOD NEAR PAUL and said, “Take courage. As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.”
If that doesn't grab your heart, break it and heal it at the same time leaving you with a conviction that you are not alone, then you are not paying attention.
Paul had just experienced the worst three days of his life and he was ready for some new energy and eagerness to go on with what was to come.
Is there anything more exciting in our lives as Christians, than the realization that Christ is at our side during every single trial that we go through; the realization that He is not off somewhere in Heaven tending to kingly duties while we struggle through life on this earth; the fact that Jesus is truly with us every step of the way as we remain bound by the forces against us on this earth? He is always at our side. ALWAYS.
THE FOLLOWING NIGHT THE LORD STOOD NEAR PAUL. He came in body form and stood right next to Paul. He is present with us ALWAYS, standing at our side, encouraging us to continue on the path He has set before us.
The riots and persecutions were not over; BUT Christ had already won this war.